Three little words: Here I am.
Individuals have been asking “Who am I?” since the beginning of time. Hashem has been asking “Where are you? since the creation of Adam. It is interesting to note that we are in the year of Shemitah which literally means “to release”. Science has proven that every seven years you have a totally new body. Not just your cells are replaced but it’s been shown you don’t have a single atom from your original body left; they’ve all been released. Besides this forcing us to look at ourselves in relation to the land, it sure puts a dent on our sense of self.
I wonder where we would have been now if Adam responded “Hineni”, here I am, rather than hiding from Hashem. I would like to think we would still be in Gan Eden. Subsequent to Adam; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses, all responded with “Hineni”, Here I am.
Joseph is the epitome of Jewish identity. He maintained his identity as a Jew no matter where he was because he knew that he was carrying out Hashem’s plan. He, too, knew that his ultimate resting place was Israel and so ensured that his bones be carried over and laid to rest in the Holy Land.
There are many references in Torah to where Hashem will choose to dwell among the people or have His Name dwell.
It seems that introspectively we dedicate time to pondering who we are, but in a spiritual sense, when we are asked to “stand up and be counted” we respond with “here I am”.
This commitment is not only significant as we celebrate the Fall Holidays, but in the challenges that preceded these holidays. During the war with Gaza we have seen lone soldiers who are making a clear commitment to where they stand. As well, in spite of the war, we have seen a strong wave of Aliyah. People know where they want to be. As Olim ourselves, it was this question that moved us to make our way to Israel. All Jews around the world can strive to answer “Who am I?” and find the answer independent of the “where”. Yet, as Jews, can we be all that we can be anywhere else then in Eretz Israel?
The physical place, here, makes up a third of the “Hineni”. The other two thirds are the person, I, and the being, am. “Beshanah abah byerushalim” is heard all over the world during the Holidays, including in Jerusalem. This Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkoth and Simcha Torah, when you a have made the commitment of where you are, bring in the who, the I. It is at this poignant moment that you can then say I “am”.
Shanah Tova. May we know peace in the New Year.